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Hans Kanters was born in Amsterdam in 1947, and has been making paintings since 1967, lithographs since 1986 and sculptures since 1994. An autodidact, he has lived and worked in the Netherlands, southern Spain, Formentera, southern France and Ibiza.

Exhibitions and collections

Hans Kanters has had exhibitions in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, the United States and Japan in galleries and art fairs. His work is in collections in these same countries. In the Museum Jan van der Togt in Amstelveen is a permanent collection of paintings of Hans Kanters. In this museum he had a solo exhibition from November 29, 2012 till January 13, 2013.

About his work

“People ought to be able to get more out of it than I put into it, otherwise I have been doing something wrong. It is not just about the meaning, it is the emotion, humour and irony, tenderness and frustration, even rage that I am trying to convey.”
There is no way to describe Kanters’ work in a couple of sentences. What you can say is that the bizarre, fascinating paintings with their dozens of details depict life in all its facets of emotion, behaviour and social customs. And at an amazingly skilled technical level. As an autodidact, for decades Kanters has been doing things his own way without paying the least bit of attention to trends or fashion, he simply is who he is. After his erotic period in the 1970s, surrealism has been dominant in his work since the 1980s and his palette has become more direct, the colours less dense. In addition to his graphic work such as lithographs and etchings, ever since 1994 he has also been making bronze statues.


Frans Duister wrote the following about the artist Hans Kanters and his work:

The world according to Hans Kanters

This text is about the paintings of the Amsterdam art painter Hans Kanters. In the course of his autonomous creative life, at more or less regular intervals efforts have been made to capture him in writing, not only on the occasions of exhibitions but also in publications embodying an attempt to trace him within the contemporary art of the Netherlands. Although these publications did as it were stop and pause at each completed period to describe and record it, the Kanters who emerged was in point of fact isolated by this approach from the broad substratum of an art concept which is adhered to more than anywhere in the Netherlands in a number of variations and which, side by side with schools and counterschools, has repeatedly proven to have its own raison d’être. One might justly observe that in general, the art of Hans Kanters is as a species not a new phenomenon, and then go on to add that the art of Hans Kanters, as it has manifested itself in the last few decades of the twentieth century, is highly specific and because of a wide range of unique qualities unduplicatable.

In opposition to the order-accepted-without-further-ado of knowable nature, he presents quite a different version. In this respect he has simply joined the ranks of all good artists. In the words of Paul Klee, he is making the invisibles visible. In an indirect symbolic language of images and links, what he makes visible is in fact precisely the invisible reality in man. Kanters thus ventures into the territory of seeing that, as a concept, has a surplus value as compared to the purely optical aspect of reality as it appears. In this sense, fantastic art is realistic art. Just as, for example, dreams can in their specific way make reality symbolically visible.

The terms visionary and fantastic have been used here. In the capacity of hinges, absurd, enigmatic and confusing might be added to the list. Because to a large extent, the world of Hans Kanters is all these things. Anyone hoping to find here a simple summary of Kanters' personality and work should bear in mind that the complexity of his oeuvre is not the product of the neurotic automatism so evident in some surrealists, but of the desire to organize his self-evoked cosmos with all those creatures and gizmos in such a way that it is conveyed in its most consciousness-raised state. This means that using the means he is so knowledgeable and proficient with, he depicts situations that no one but he himself creates in the process. Free of the font, he transforms phenomena and objects, enticing transformations into the world of symbolism, which is frequently a visionary one.

In order to portray Hans Kanters in a manner that coaxes into existence a picture of the man and his work in any other way than via his work itself would in a sense require an attitude somewhat less than serious. Or at any rate a different type of seriousness than modern art historians, politicians and psychiatrists tend to demonstrate. He has as it were artistically, materially and socially safeguarded his individualism against any form of obligation, dependence or group membership whatsoever. In this sense, he reminds one of Salvador Dali when he said a man ought to make his own prison as soon as he can in life, so no one else can toss him in theirs. And working from there, he should go his own way, if necessary on the way to the Bank. This is the kind of humor that immediately reveals intelligence. And there is another comparison to Dali that comes to mind. This one is similarly related to an attitude in life, for as far as their paintings go there are no comparisons to be made. Kanters is also of the opinion that in the second half of this century full of ‘isms’, he does not want to fall prey to passing trends, systems or ideologies. Kanters is non-partisan and in his case, it means that as an artist he puts a personal urge to create above all else. This is an attitude that once again bears witness to a different kind of seriousness mixed here with a sense of humor that, precisely in his capacity as the non-partisan, turns Kanters into a unique phenomenon.

Some people are born as painters, looking upon the world in a fashion that is unpredictable, as if no linguistic skills need be acquired to express internal images and dreams. They discover that their initially unused language is perpendicular as it were to the more widespread mode of communication. They have got a choice: they can either make adjustments in the course of their development, as is expected from respectable folks, or they can remain in pursuit of the out-of-the-ordinary, which is certain to come. In the later case, seeds are not sown indiscriminately; but are meticulously dropped in the fertile soil of untrodden countryside.

The painter Hans Kanters is a typical example of a born painter. To start with, that means that from early childhood, within a small if not infinitesimal minority, he has stuck to his own path as an artist. It has oftentimes not been an easy path because the painter is also alive in his leisure time and can take as active a part in the social life around him as anyone else, so that all the impulses coming from the society he lives in will also leave their inevitable traces on him.
He nonetheless goes his own way, despite the experience that certain symptoms can dominate an era. It also means that his individualism is just as much a way of life as a mode of creation. In his personal stance as regards the instruments he expresses himself with, which have been borne throughout a long history of painting, his point of departure is not an attitude of protest but a synthesis between who he is and what he is capable of. And it is this capability, taken literally as proficiency in painting, which he has come to master in his own right. And which he has apparently been born to. It is by now an accepted fact that this proficiency has since drawn his inspiration or caprice, and either might be the case here, within the range of visibility. And the fact that this proficiency is indeed an art-related matter can be confirmed as a requisite effect, because what is involved here is equally a life mode and a deliberately persued and discovered stance vis à vis the whole of existence.

In the work of Hans Kanters, a privileged possessed ness is reflected. Nothing is dictated from a prejudiced position. On the contrary, positions present themselves in the course of the painting process. Solely the items that surface in his mind demand of his painting hand a visible response. Within the realm of an individual grammar, in a unique fashion the unfeasible becomes feasible. What then ensues would seem to be obsessions that disproportionately shout for attention, but that because of their fantastic forms and visionary potentialities seem inexhaustible.

Imagination reigns supreme here in a totality of a cosmos with creatures of the human and animal kingdom and hitherto unseen flora and fauna painted with know how balancing between fastidious attention and irony. The solely aesthetically oriented viewer who only seeks to comprehend Kanters’ paintings for their externals, for their decorative functionality, is approaching the oeuvre of this painter with the wrong mentality. A viewer of this kind is not apt to see much, or to truly fathom what little he does see. At most, the externals of the work might lead him to conclude that he is dealing with a painter who is every bit a European, linked by distant and oblique pathways to the critical spirit of a humanist and simultaneously subversive world like the one depicted centuries ago in Erasmus ‘Praise of Folly’ or in the obsessing fantasies of Hieronymus Bosch.

It is a historical fact that the work of Hieronymus Bosch did not return to the limelight until the twentieth century. He was considered a predecessor of the surrealists and a suitable case for psychoanalysis. In his own era, he drew from he wealth of imagery of the local vulgar tongue. In a certain sense Hans Kanters does the same, for he too visualizes his lingo, drawing from his own life as it unfolded in post-War Amsterdam. It is not easy to link anyone to him, at least not anywhere in the multi-sided domain of twentieth-century art. Bosch’s contemporaries did not leave us any personal testimonies. Kanters’ have. We know him best however from his work and the themes enveloped in it, as have been described above. Without assistance, he cultivated his art to maturity, acting single-handedly with the courage of his convictions. It should be duly noted here that the variations in the color blue, as Kanters sometimes spans like a spatial tent around his tableau, have something liberating about them. And that his rendering of light gives his observations a meaningful omni-penetrating aura.

The painter as observant illuminator. In his own theater, where comedy, drama, operetta, chamber music, passion play and puppet show take turns on the stage. As in life. The visionary terrarium of an artist. As in art. Hans Kanters is a loner. As an artist, he presents a world for our consideration, not a world for us to believe in. But thanks to his wondrous gift to create, a world that matters.

Frans Duister, 1989